Maria Martinez-Cañas, NWSA photography professor, receives prestigious Ellie – Michael Richards Award, while NWSA alumna Luna Goldberg and two visual arts adjunct faculty members receive Creator Awards this year.

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Maria Canas in class.Luna Goldberg with award.

Oolite Arts announced The Ellies awards this year, selecting New World School of the Arts photography professor Maria Martinez-Cañas as the 2020 recipient of the prestigious Michael Richards Award. The award of $75,000 celebrates a Miami-Dade artist who has created a recognized body of high-quality works, and who is achieving the highest levels of professional distinction in the visual arts through their practice. The award will support this practice over a two-year period, including a commission to create a work of art to be exhibited at The Bass. For this award, Maria Martinez-Cañas was chosen by a jury of national and local artists and curators.

“I am absolutely honored, humbled and grateful to be this year’s Oolite Arts Michael Richards Award Recipient,” said Maria Martinez-Cañas, “not only because of what this means to my artistic work, but because it was also given to me as a result of my years of teaching in this community. I hope that in my teaching career I have given back to my students what was given to me by my own teachers - as this is the greatest of gifts.”

“NWSA is very proud of Professor Martinez-Cañas' accomplishments and we join her in the celebration. Since I joined the NWSA team in July, I have been impressed with Maria's commitment to her teaching and the wealth of knowledge about photography and contemporary art practices that she brings to her classes. She is a dedicated mentor and is always willing to teach the students by example. I couldn’t be more thrilled to get to work with Maria at NWSA,” said O. Gustavo Plascencia, Dean of Visual Arts at New World School of the Arts.

In addition, Oolite Arts also selected New World School of the Arts 2011 alumna Luna Goldberg as the winner of The Ellie – 2020 Creator Award, for “At Memory’s Edge,” an exhibition and symposium on contested monuments in Miami and abroad, dedicated to creating a public platform for conversation around the function of monuments, their relationship to systems of power and the ability of artists to recast national histories. Luna’s award includes a $7,000 prize.

New World School of the Arts visual arts adjunct faculty members Liz Shannon (Art History) and Lauren Shapiro (Ceramics) were also recognized with the 2020 Creator Award.

The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards, are offered in four categories to support Miami-Dade working and emerging artists, art educators. The awards include the Michael Richards Award, the Social Justice Award, the Creator Awards, and the Teacher Travel Grants Awards. The Ellies were named in honor of Oolite Arts’ founder, Ellie Schneiderman, a visionary who recognized the power of supporting artists in their work. As Ellie often said, Oolite Arts is here to “help artists help themselves.”

The Michael Richards Award was created in tribute to Michael Richards (1963–2001), an incisive, provocative and poetic artist whose body of work primarily addresses racial inequity and social injustice. An Oolite Arts alum, Richards passed away tragically in his art studio in the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Maria Martinez-Cañas was born in Havana, Cuba. She received a BFA in Photography from Philadelphia College of Art and her MFA in Photography from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. An artist who works with innovative, non-traditional photographic media, she has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad, with 47 one-person exhibitions and over 300 group exhibitions. She is the recipient of a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, Umbria, Italy; Cintas Fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts Award; and a Fulbright-Hays Grant, among others. Her works are included in the permanent collections of Philadelphia Museum of Arts, Philadelphia; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC. Her work is represented by Julie Saul Projects, New York; Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami.

About NWSA: Created in by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the visual and performing arts, New World School of the Arts is an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and University of Florida. NWSA provides a comprehensive program of artistic, creative, and academic development through a curriculum that reflects our community and the rich multicultural state of Florida. Through its educational partners, NWSA confers the high school diploma, Associate of Arts degree, and Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees in programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance, Music, Theater and Art & Design. New World School of the Arts’ rigorous eight-year curriculum and conservatory-style teaching has empowered students in the South Florida community and the nation to become leaders in the arts.

Through gifted, emerging artists, and unique programs, New World School of the Arts has become an educational and creative beacon of the arts. Trained by nationally renowned practicing artists, visual arts students are encouraged to develop a personal, artistic and aesthetic vision while mastering their own technical skills in traditional and new media. Areas of concentration for NWSA students seeking a four-year BFA college degree in visual arts include art & technology, drawing, graphic design, painting, photography and sculpture.

New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts. It is an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida.

Information about the NWSA Visual Arts program is available by calling 305-237-3620 or visiting